Recognizing Audiences in the Murky Marketing Ecosystem

How the Integration of Marketing Channels Enables Consistent Consumer Recognition for Cross-Channel Advertising

In this, the second of our MoneyAds Mentor Series, we look at how modern advertisers strive to create connected experiences for consumers and foster trust, all in (near) real time. Recognition – recognizing consumers across channels, offline or online – is the foundation for this, and it all begins with connected data to drive connected experiences when and where your audience is most receptive. While recognition may seem easy to achieve, the ability to do this across channels, devices and media is highly complex. The good news is, with more places to reach consumers, brands have the opportunity to drive expanded reach and greater relevance with ad technology partners.

As consumers, we live multi-channel lives and often interact with our favorite brands through a myriad of channels, and nowhere more so these days than on websites, on our mobile phones, or wherever we go to watch TV or videos. Our shift in behavior has impacted marketing so much that when recently asked, 28 percent of marketing leaders said they plan to reallocate resources to prioritize an omni-channel engagement strategy.

How can advertisers begin to execute such a strategy? A brand’s journey must start with its own invaluable customer data to recognize consumers consistently across channels, while respecting their need for privacy and discretion. While this concept has been table stakes in the offline world, the digital world has presented a slew of hurdles, such as rapidly evolving technology and platforms and the format of the data itself. The challenge then lies in the consistent application of consumer data across channels.

After all, if recognition drives connected experiences, then consumer data matching drives the connection of data.

Key takeaways:

  1. A cross-channel view of the consumer is the foundation for true multi-channel advertising. After all, you can’t target who you don’t recognize.
  2. Carefully craft the mix of digital channels to create connected experiences for your intended audience.
  3. Adopt recognition and matching best practices that deliver the highest degree of accuracy and reach. Expertise in recognition across time and channels is essential.
  4. Select an ad tech partner that is integrated with a large network of partners and publishers, especially those most important to your brand, to allow you to effectively leverage your customer data and boost your ability to reach consumers through their channel(s) of choice.
  5. Recognition across channels does not mean annoying people across channels. Ensure you and your ad tech partners always use data ethically to protect consumer privacy.

I’m Supposed to Work with Who?

Study after study shows the value of multichannel marketing and how consumers who engage with a brand through multiple channels spend much more than single-channel consumers, with some estimating a 4X difference between the two groups, with others finding an average of $9 in incremental sales for every $1 of online advertising.
As enticing as that value proposition is, for marketers tasked with creating the connected experiences needed to reap these benefits, they must make sense of an ecosystem that looks like this:


Where should they even start? And how many consumers can they identify with a high degree of accuracy to deliver a relevant digital offer in an individual campaign? Marketers want to know how often they will recognize a consumer across channels. And what is the best mix of channels to reach their target audience and uncover new prospects?
The tremendous proliferation of channels and devices has occurred primarily in the digital realm. When brands start drafting a digital advertising strategy, often they will need to use a mix of channels to solve for accuracy, reach, scale and personalization. In this paper we will explore five key channels or approaches, primarily digital, to consider:

  1. Premium Publishers – These are websites with huge numbers of visitors who spend long periods of time on the sites. Typically, these sites require registration, providing the publishers with volunteered information about their visitors, which delivers a wealth of personally identifiable information (PII). Examples include Facebook, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo and Twitter.
  2. Programmatic Media – AdExchanger defines this as “the automation of media buying and selling processes and decisions, enhanced through data,” and continues, “Once perceived simply as the domain of low-quality inventory and belly fat busting ads, programmatic is becoming the new normal for the largest brands in the world.” Some even estimate that by 2017, programmatic will represent 87 percent of display advertising spend. Whereas with premium publishers brands are usually targeting consumers, with programmatic advertisers are typically targeting audiences. Unlike premium publishers, where targeting is often based on PII, programmatic is usually not attributable to a given consumer.
  3. Mobile Networks – Perhaps the most personal of channels, mobile has the opportunity to be king in providing everything necessary for contextual marketing.

    Studies show that “half of U.S. online adults own at least three Internet-connected devices and go online from them multiple times a day from multiple locations.”

    For this reason, mobile has also become the linchpin for media consumption, offering consumers the ability to read/watch/order/research any product or service – anytime, anywhere. It cannot be ignored when crafting a multichannel marketing strategy.

  4. Call Centers – One of the best avenues to enhance customer experience, call centers are still a critical channel for marketers in several industries, such as high-end retail, insurance, or financial services. Because this is also one of the most expensive channels (the longer the phone call with a customer, the lower the profitability), real time data integration and recognition is paramount for operators to solve someone’s problem on the first call.
  5. Addressable Television/Video on Demand – These providers are usually subscription-based digital entertainment services with set-top boxes that offer the ability to send a specific TV commercial to a zip code or household. Examples include: Cablevision, DirectTV, Dish Network, Time Warner and Comcast.
  6. Online Video – While this approach is akin to addressable TV in some cases, there are actually several business models for online video providers, and the advertising opportunities vary accordingly. Online video is quickly becoming the intersection of video/television and mobile, with consumers choosing not only when to consume certain content, but also on which device, which often is a smartphone or tablet. Marketers need to consider their ability to deliver through this emerging channel.

In the spirit of connected experiences, and knowing that most brands will use a mix of channels in their advertising, how can marketers effectively recognize consumers across channels and devices? What are the best practices for recognizing a consumer and matching disparate data sets about them to deliver the most relevant and meaningful offers to create connected experiences, build brand affinity and earn customers for life?

On Your Mark, Get Set, Go!

How do you pick the optimal mix of marketing channels? There are few hard and fast rules. The bottom line is that you want to reach consumers where they are. Don’t know how to do that? You can learn how, step by step, in the Comprehensive Guide to New Leads and Better Customers.

But let’s move beyond the who and address the how. Because you know your audience, you know how to pick the right channel(s) for your campaigns. What are the best practices for recognizing consumers across channels, matching disparate data sets into a single view to deliver timely, relevant messages within those channels?

  • Premium Publishers – For the highest level of accuracy, relevance and privacy, you want to match visitor information in a neutral safe-haven sitting between your CRM data and the publisher’s data. This requires a partnership on the front end between publisher and your recognition partner so they can utilize your partner’s safe haven and work together to safeguard consumer privacy.
  • Programmatic – This often leverages cookie matching, ideally through a partner with the largest cookie pool possible that can handle large volumes of information with streamlined data onboarding. Solid integrations with DMPs and other execution tools will also improve your rates of success and the timeliness of your offers.
  • Mobile Networks – While marketers won’t argue the importance of mobile to cross-channel advertising,

    in a recent study 42 percent cited the inability to accurately target the same user across channels as a major challenge when running cross-channel campaigns.

    Why does mobile present such difficulties for recognition? With cookies working in some online browsers but not in apps, one of the most common tools used to identify consumers is hindered in achieving real scale. However, it is possible to achieve optimized targeting by “going beyond demographics to identify specific individuals based on their authenticated log-in, device identification, or given PII, and then layering in their past behaviors, affinities, and relationship with your brand. Relying on third-party or publisher data won’t suffice here, and it is imperative for marketers to now integrate their own first-party and CRM data to target with this level of granularity and personalization.”

  • Call Centers – The key to recognition here is ensuring that phone numbers are included in each customer record, whether from a brand’s own CRM data, or appended from third party data, or can be used in real-time not only for recognition, but also to make all the data a company has about a consumer available to a call center associate. For example, seeing order history or knowing if they’ve been having difficulties on the website, may be the key to resolving an issue quickly and successfully.
  • Addressable Television/Video on Demand – Addressable ads are currently available in nearly 50 million households, and the number is climbing. But, because the ads target a household, you will pay a premium for this level of optimization. The more specific and affluent the target – for example, households in a higher income bracket – the higher the cost. For that reason, you should use a process similar to what you use for working with premium publishers but with a more surgical attention to relevance.Note, because of differences in technologies and data sets across addressable television providers, be sure your recognition partner is equipped to integrate disparate technologies to market effectively to your intended audience.
  • Online Video – Best practices for recognition here will depend on your platform of choice. For marketers, devices that stream directly from the internet, like Roku or Apple TV, are similar to set-top boxes that enable addressable TV. Others that are ad-supported, like Hulu, may be closer to programmatic. And don’t forget the premium publishers that have acquired online video capabilities, like AOL with or Google with YouTube. Beware a vendor who touts its ability to recognize consumers across any online video platform; recognition here needs to be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

What Was Your Name Again?

It is safe to say that effective cross-channel marketing is a multi-step process requiring a high level of expertise, computing horsepower, security, the right channel choices and a strong sensitivity to consumers’ desire for privacy. But it’s worth the effort.

Regardless of the channel or channels you choose, there are some fundamentals to consider as you build your recognition capabilities:

Start with good data – Using data to recognize consumers is a decades-old practice, but today’s digital publisher environment comes with modern technology and privacy requirements. Many premium publishers have established partnerships to allow brands to safely make the most of their own marketing database’s intelligence, matching it to a publisher’s data within a safe haven, a privacy-compliant environment behind a firewall that protects the information and privacy of those in the database.

Can’t do a direct, data-to-data match? Cookies can help! – Ideally, your recognition partner should have a very large pool of cookies set through a myriad of publishers for the greatest scale and reach. Keep in mind that a cookie pool is simply a collection of cookies, i.e. browser-based identifications that indicate shopping preferences. While already valuable, there are ways to increase the overall relevance of ads delivered based on these cookies by enhancing them with third-party data.

Tying it All Together, e.g. Measure Your Efforts – Disciplined measurement is one of the keys to genuinely successful campaigns. Practice asking your recognition partner this:

What is my unduplicated consumer reach?

To improve each campaign, you need to ensure you are reporting the match rate by consumers matched. And, when considering programmatic, count those who match your cookie pool and have one or more publisher cookies associated with them.

Where to Start?

If you are interested in adopting a more methodical approach to engaging consumers with truly relevant and contextual offers and services, you need to push for broad-based recognition and matching based on good data, historical knowledge, cookie pools and rigorous measurement. To put a program in place that allows you to create a cross-channel view of consumers, keep these points in mind:

Your Checklist for Success

  • Ensure your ad tech partners ethically use data to ensure consumer privacy.
  • Consider which digital ad tech partners and channels will help you reach your intended audience, managing for accuracy, reach and scale.
  • Ask ad tech partners to define their processes to recognize a consumer across time, devices and channels.
  • Identify partners that can help you to apply a consistent data strategy across all channels. This should be the basis of your targeting on the front end and measurement on back end.
  • Adopt best recognition practices for each channel:
    • matching first-party and publisher or third party data when possible
    • taking advantage of a significant cookie pool
    • leveraging device IDs or other authenticated data points
    • working with someone with a network of publisher partners with a host of delivery options including video
  • Report match rate by consumers matched.

So how do modern, digital marketers achieve profit and relevance, mirror needs and desires, and foster trust, all in real time? Consistently recognizing consumers across time and channels is the answer. A 360-degree view of the customer paves the way for truly effective cross-channel advertising.